Fighting for Fiona

One of my favorite parts of being a teacher  is the opportunity to give back to others, especially sweet kiddos in need! While I do not have any babies of my own yet (other than my daily 20), I can not imagine the struggles some families have to go through fighting for their child's health. This month I am fortunate enough to be a part of a great K-1 fundraiser for a sweet baby girl. The Who's Who authors are holding this fundraiser for a little girl named Fiona from Indiana.

Three year old Fiona Waller’s only cure is a bone marrow transplant...her medical bills are overwhelming as well. 

Fiona was born with a rare, life threatening immune deficiency which requires her to undergo painful weekly infusions. A bone marrow transplant would replace her defective B-Cells and T-Cells. Karen Waller, Fiona's mom worries that, "the only other option is to continue treatments and wait until she gets sick."
  • The family’s medical insurance requires an $8,000 out of pocket deductible each           January.
  • Fi’s medical bills totaled over $80,000 in the first 6 months.
To help this wonderful family with expenses for this beautiful baby girl, Who's Who is holding a fundraiser to help pay for her medical bills. Our initial goal is to raise enough to pay for the family’s 2016 deductible. Maybe we can even raise enough to pay for the actual bone marrow transplant!

All proceeds from the sale of these educational resource bundles, will go to Fiona and her family. Please check out some of these resources from the links below. You will get some AMAZING resources AND you will be helping out a family in need. Resources are divided into grade level bundles and I am so thankful to contribute to the K-1 fundraiser (the others look wonderful too!)

·         To donate directly to Fiona's Fund - 
·         To watch the video -                      
·         To follow Fi's mommy's blog -      

5 Tips for Helping Attention Seeking Students

Ok readers out there, it's time to get real with you about myself, my challenging students, and what I have done to change student behaviors lately.
Let me start by saying, I am patient. I am calm. I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually been angry in the last year. I love working with first graders and have a special place in my heart for students with special needs, learning disabilities, and ADHD. However, the one thing that can get under my skin like nothing else is an intentionally disruptive and defiant child. You know, the one that you ask to sit down who looks you in the eye and does the opposite. Or the one who plays their desk like a drum with a pencil (while yelling "I don't know how to do it") after you've given directions and modeled 3 times? The one who is ALWAYS seeking your attention, but not in a good way. Grr!

Last week I have to admit that I nearly lost my mind. Tuesday was a rough day. Like, my body was physically shaking I was so upset and filled with adrenaline. It started like any day with one particular child constantly interrupting, wandering the room, refusing to complete tasks, and being all around disruptive. I had tried a token system, staying firm, staying calm, nothing seemed to be able to manage this child. After he tore up my room for over an hour while we were waiting for his parents to get there, I said to myself "This isn't worth it. I'm not able to teach. He is ONE child. What about the rest?" And was about ready to resign.

Once I got home and collected myself, I knew quitting wasn't actually in my heart. I was just overwhelmed. I immediately started researching ways to help attention seeking children. Even though I felt like I was already doing many of the things they suggested, I had to dig deep and keep trying.

Here is what I've done based on the research. So far, it has made a drastic improvement. Was it a perfect week? No. Have the child and I both left school each day feeling much better and seeing positive changes? Yes. So to me, it's a start.

When babies are born they quickly learn that when they smile, learn something new, and show signs of love, they often get a positive response and attention from their parents. Sometimes this doesn't happen like when parents aren't around or are focused on something/someone else whether intentionally (neglect) or not (working, raising multiple kids, dealing with their own issues, etc.). This forces the child to resort to drastic measures (crying, hitting a sibling, getting into trouble) just to get noticed. After all, isn't some attention, even negative, better than feeling ignored?

This research put my little guy's struggles into perspective for me. Basically, in his mind he is lacking a sense of security and attention/love. He was desperate for attention and boy was I giving it to him. Only I had been giving him negative attention despite my best efforts.

It is very important to learn to ignore the behaviors that are negatively seeking attention (calling out, wandering, disruptive, etc.). It is hard, I'm not gonna lie! However, each time you bring attention to the behavior or redirect the child, you are giving them exactly what they want. Your time and focus. This is NOT what we want. We do not want them to keep learning that being disruptive is the way to get you to notice them.

Please note, I am not saying ignore something like a physical fight or destroying property, etc. When something like this does happen you do need to address it. However, keep your interactions in a neutral tone (easier said then done, I know) and brief. For example, " We do not hit." Sit the child down, and walk away. Or, "It is not ok to break things." Pick up the item, and walk away. They will try to test you. Dig deep, stay calm and focus on not letting them get a rise out of you. You cannot get into an argument or turn a situation into a long discussion. Don't waste more of your classes time.

If you need to walk them to their desk 20 times in a row then do it, do not say anything, avoid eye contact, and walk away. Eventually, the child will stay where you put them and will cool down. You can then address the problem in a calm way, on your own terms/timeline. Meanwhile, you have continued to give your full attention to the class and the teaching.

If we are now ignoring the negative attention seeking behaviors, we must replace them. Remember, the whole reason the child is doing this is because somewhere deep down they are feeling ignored or unloved. The research suggests giving random attention throughout the day at a similar rate to their current attention seeking behaviors. For example, if they are trying to get your attention in a negative way once every 5 minutes at first, then you must replace this with some form of positive attention once every 5 minutes. This can be verbal praise, eye contact, a smile, a pat of the shoulder, a thumbs up, time with you, a quick chat with you checking in, etc. This attention is given when you see them on task, making good choices, or on the verge of a meltdown (catch and redirect before things escalate and negative attention is warranted).

I spent the last few days really taking time to show this child love. Each morning I am checking in with him as soon as he walks in the door, asking about his night, setting a tone for a great day. Rather than hush the class during lunch so I can try to inhale some form of food, I've let them all just talk to me. I have given the child the chance to walk with me in line, and help me hold things. I have filled his mind with sincere praise and asked him to be a leader. I even sat with him for 5 minutes during indoor recess to color a Ninja Turtle picture. Did I have a thousand other things I needed to be doing? Yes, of course. But, these 5 minutes of quality time meant the world to both of us. I could see him as a little boy just wanting someone to color with him, rather than the child I had started dreading spending the day with earlier in the year.

I also fully implemented a token system for him. I wrote more about this system here. 

Many times, these attention seeking kids are smart kiddos! They know how to work the system, and us! They have had to learn to be this way. As teachers, we need to teach them that they also have the potential to be different. I started Wednesday morning by pulling my little guy aside and talking with him. I explained how sad I had felt the day before and how today I knew he was going to prove to himself, and me, that he could make better choices. I also let him know that if he was ever just feeling like he needed a hug, he could ask for one or just come get one. I told him that today I was going to take time for just me and him, as long as he did his part to help the class get their work done. I then gave him that time, just me and him. I explained that if he needed me, I would always be there for him but he did need to raise his hand like everyone else. I also promised to always come check on him, but that he also needed to give me time to help other kids too.

Getting him to trust me will take time. It will also take time for our bond to grow. He needs to learn that I will come back to him, I will love him even if he has an off day, and that I will continue to push him to succeed because I see the potential in him. It may seem unfair to give so much attention to just one or two children, but remember, the goal is to limit their distractions and fill a void in their lives. Teaching the rest of your class will be much more manageable once these children are settled.

Every day will not go smoothly. They will test your limits and call your bluffs. Dig deep and remember that this child needs you just as much as the rest of your students, if not more. Finally, know that one huge hug (practically tackle) on a Friday afternoon WILL change your life and bring you to tears. Your bond is beginning to grow, this child's trust of you is forming, and for possibly the first time, they have found a source of love, in YOU.

What strategies have you found to work best with your attention seeking students?

To share with a teacher friend who is having a tough time, 
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Teaching Number Sense in 1st Grade

Hello! I am excited to once again be hosting Math Tip Monday, a monthly linky for primary teachers, with my sweet friend Theresa from Theresa's Teaching Tidbits

This month we are bringing you some of our favorite ideas for teaching number sense. In my first grade classroom we are focusing on reading, writing, and representing numbers up to 50 at this time. Last fall I wrote about many of the math centers we were using to practice this skill and even included a freebie. If you want to  grab the freebie (Mystery Counting) be sure to click here.

Now, on to the good stuff!

We started school about a week and a half ago and boy has the time flown by already! I know that my kids spent tons of time practicing counting in Kindergarten and many can rote count (from memory) without a problem. The trouble seems to be when they switch to the next decade (38...39...50?). They are also struggling with number reversals when reading and writing (which is pretty common for this age but something I want to correct now).

One solution has been TONS of practice reading and writing numbers. We start each math lesson with a Numbers Race. I set 2 minutes on our timer and my kids write their numbers as high as they can on white boards. When 2 minutes is up, they put their markers in the air and decide if they beat their "world record". I emphasize that they are competing against themselves and working on improving their own writing/counting- they should not be comparing themselves to how high someone else can count. They get so excited when they beat their old "high score." 

We then move to fill in the blank practice. I call out a series of numbers and kids write the number that comes next on their white boards. I sometimes write the series of numbers and leave the missing number in the center. This whole group practice comes in handy when they go to centers and work on filling in the missing numbers. 

After we have spent a few minutes writing numbers each day (I monitor to help students with reversals), we work on identifying numbers using a hundreds chart. I display a large hundreds chart on the board while each student has their own mat on the floor. I call out a number and have them circle it with their marker, or cover it with a counter. 
I then teach my mini-lesson for the day. The whole routine above lasts no more than 10 minutes. My goal is to provide short, focused practice on reading and writing numbers. We use the hundreds chart to refer to (when looking for patterns that help us count). When my kids move to stations they continue practicing counting, and also have time to represent different numbers. 

Their favorite game is Collect 20 (or 30/40/50 depending on group needs). Simply pass out a handful of counters to each child and 1 die. They love using dice! Partners take turns rolling the dice and adding that many counters to their pile. Once they get to 20 they win and start again. This game is helpful because a) it is easy and low prep ;) b) we can discuss 1 to 1 counting and strategies for keeping track such as lining up the counters and not leaving them in a hot mess pile and c) the game can be easily differentiated for partners. 

Another low-prep counting game is called Towers. Use small stickers to write a variety of numbers (I wrote 1-20). Stick each sticker to a connecting cube and set aside. When students work on this game they grab a cube, and build a tower that represents that number (ex. the cube with the number 15 ends up being 15 cubes tall). Students can also put the cubes in number order at the end. This is a great visual representation of each number. They can also see how counting is like a staircase with one more being added each time. 
We end by playing some math centers (as described above), and a few others that review the fill in the blank counting practice. The popcorn center, puppy counting, and BBQ counting games can all be found in my TPT store. You can also use 2 different die cuts to write fill in the blank sequences and matching numbers on them. 
What are some of your favorite ways to practice counting? Be sure to check out the rest of the link below for other ideas, or link up with us to share your own!

LaborLESS Blog Hop

Hello everyone!
Main Graphic Laborless
It is finally here!

Today I am linking with Laura from Where the Magic Happens, Krista from Teaching Momster, and Lisa from PAWsitively Teaching! I have joined forces once again with my bloggy friends to bring you the best, most amazing giveaway on this Labor Day weekend!

All of us have been thinking about  good ways in which to treat our readers and followers.   We thought hard, and I mean it! Really, really hard… and decided that  we can treat you to our best ideas to work smarter rather than harder… at school and home!

I know what it takes to be a great teacher, the stress, the time, the energy… I could go on and on! I also know that we crave time to ourselves and our families.

So here I go!
Let me tell you, I am all about saving time, especially in my classroom. One way that I do this is by using LOTS of hanging file folders. Here are a few different ways that I use them to organize. I find that staying organized really does help me work smarter and not harder.

Like many teachers, I ask my students to read at home each night. The majority of my students are from low income families and do not have access to books once they leave home. While nothing can take the place of "real" books, these leveled readers from Reading A-Z do help. I print a variety of titles and use washi tape to color code them by level. The real time saver in this process is that my first graders can switch out their own books each morning by matching the colors. Instant student responsibility, on-level reading, and the perfect excuse for my washi tape addiction.

I have used a small hanging folder box for years to hold student information. I put all of my attendance/parent notes, contact info, behavior documents, and assessment information in this box. Because it is easier to carry than my filing cabinet, :) I can bring home work if I need to or just pull a folder on the go.

One problem that I wanted to tackle this year was finding a way to organize my books. I have thousands of children's books organized in my library by topic/author/genre. However, I also have many books (mentor texts) that I do not want to have to search through my library for every time I need them. I started by putting all of my Math Mentor Texts together by standard. Then, I simply hung them in hanging folders inside of my filing cabinet. I also have worksheets and lesson ideas sorted by standard. Now, when it is time to plan each week I can grab a folder and have all of our resources at my fingertips, as well as a guaranteed way to incorporate literacy into math.
The last way that I decided to use hanging folders this year was as a way to organize my construction paper (of course in rainbow order!). I hated trying to pull out one piece only to make a mess of the whole stack. I can also see which color I need to get more of without disturbing all of my other supplies.
Do you have a favorite way to use hanging file folders?
Ok, now for some honesty. When I get home I need some time to relax and unwind. To do this I usually sit in front of the TV and stare at whatever channel happens to be on, usually HGTV or Food Network. Once my mind feels less like mush and my feet feel less like bricks, I can function again!

When I am not in the mood to be a big blob I do like to get creative! One way that I do this is by hand making cards. Here are a few that I have made in the past. Having a hobby that allows me to be creative really is helpful. I know that if I am not careful I will dedicate all of my time to teaching and TPT and not allow myself to shut off my teacher brain (let's be real, it's never off, but at least I can aim for dimmed). It really is all about finding a balance and occasionally doing something just for myself.
What hobbies do you enjoy most?
If you are looking to get your classroom organized, here is the product for you!
I did my best to take all of the thinking out of setting up a new classroom. This OWL themed classroom product includes dozens of labels for notebooks and folders, Data Binder materials to help with keeping track of assessments, Homework Binders to help with student organization and parent communication, a behavior chart, dozens of pages of classroom decor, and more!
Even if your classroom is already set up for the year, the organizational tools in this product are so worth it. I also will be posting soon on how my whole school uses these products and will be adding additional themes. Be sure to follow me on TPT if you'd like to be notified when they are uploaded.

It is also available with an Ocean theme.
I hope you were able to gather a few new ideas and are taking time to relax!